The good news is that the $46 billion planned China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) may actually come to fruition since Pakistan and China last month finalized a security blueprint in which some 32,000 guards (including 500 Chinese military personnel) will protect the approximately 14,000 Chinese workers on the projects along the CPEC. Though the security situation along CPEC routes has improved but not eliminated entirely. Pakistan and China has good reason to be wary and rely on military troops to guard the project and its workers particularly along the western route of the CPEC running from the port of Gwadar through the Indian sponsored secessionist insurgency-wracked Balochistan and Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa province. It is for this reason that CPEC would be completed in phases and in the first phase eastern route would be completed not because it goes through Punjab but because this route is more developed and already has a functioning network of roads and railways, which merely need to be modernized in contrast to western route. It will also save both time and money.
India, since the very beginning, has been wary about this Chinese-funded economic corridor in Pakistan with expected economic benefits referred to as “game changer”. It has not only been utterly vocal about its annoyance over the project but has been up creating hurdles and troubles in the progress of the project. Recently, India has objected the CPEC on the basis that it is to pass through Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a disputed territory being part of Jammu and Kashmir. Firstly, if this is the case then India should talk to Pakistan to resolve the unresolved issue of Kashmir in accordance with the wishes of the people of these areas. This India would never do. India’s latest objection on CPEC that it passes through Gilgit-Baltistan has also been nullified by China’s state office. As Deputy Director General of the Asian Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, Huang Xilian, said China is opposed to India’s oil exploration in the South China Sea because it is a disputed area, but regards its ambitious $46 billion economic corridor through Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir a “livelihood project” with issues left over from history. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) India has been awarded oil exploration contracts by Vietnam and China in the past voiced objections to Indian state-owned firm’s participation in Vietnam’s oil exploration projects for they fall into disputed areas but India defended the projects saying that they are purely commercial projects and need not be politicised. Likewise, it is again expected from India to show some wisdom and understand the importance of CPEC for the betterment of the people and the region at large. Thus, what the world is left to believe as the underlying reasons to challenge the CPEC seems to be PM Modi’s deep-rooted antagonism towards Pakistan and Muslims, which is evident from the recent incidents of communal victimization of Muslims in India and Modi government’s rejection of peace overtures in recent months. Or could it be India’s alignment with the US’ ‘Pivot’ to Asia policy, which is primarily aimed at encircling China? Whatever it is; all a sane mind can think of is that it is “the” time for India to rise real high and shine by favouring regional collaboration as it would serve her “right” instead of courting conflicts. As already China is not convinced of Indian reasoning of going against the CPEC and rather has repeatedly made it clear that no opposition would be tolerated and the project would be completed come what may. As part of this commitment, a high-powered Chinese delegation to New Delhi, led by General Fan Changlong, the senior vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), in the last month (November) discussed issues regarding threats to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and evolving joint efforts to counter such attacks. Reportedly, during that visit, the Chinese side sought certain explanations from the Indian government about the alleged funding and training by agents of Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) to the militants of the East Turkistan Independence Movement (ETIM) at Kunar, Nuristan, Kandahar and other parts of Afghanistan. China has evidence that the Indians have been funding the ETIM for not only carrying out terror attacks in Xinjiang Province but also for also creating potential threats to CPEC through Balochistan. The Chinese delegation also sought strong assurances from Indians about immediate and complete withdrawal of Indian support in all forms and manifestations to the ETIM militants in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Pakistan and China understands that CPEC is a commercial venture meant to improve peoples’ lives and India needs to realize the same. Else, it is not too difficult to understand that with India’s proactive involvement in Afghanistan, especially close to the Pakistan border, Pakistani sensitivities are bound to inflame. There are talks of improving people’s lives by directing the dividends of Chinese investment into the region. Given the current security situation, while a military presence is essential to keeping peace and stability along KPK and Balochistan, lasting peace and security will only come through economic prosperity and development, which CPEC certainly promises. If wishes to realize, India too has reason to join rather than oppose the CPEC which is to be connected to another corridor to provide the landlocked Central Asian Republics access to shipping routes in the Arabian Sea. As it is, for quite some time India has been seeking a land route to Central Asian markets for trade as well as to benefit from the region’s huge energy resources. The CPEC could provide it with the necessary infrastructure for the purpose. India’s ultra Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to understand that a stable Pakistan at peace with itself is in his own country’s interest. In any event, whether New Delhi supports or opposes the CPEC, the project is going to go ahead. With the present stance it risks being left out of a great project of economic progress via regional connectivity.